Even if you've been super careful with contraception, going to a sexual health clinic can still be a nerve-racking experience. Most of us could use a laugh to relieve that nervousness, and fortunately for patients at San Francisco's Women's Community Clinic, volunteer Nicole Calasich is also a professional stand-up comedian.
We caught up with her to get the inside scoop on what staff members at your local sex clinic are really thinking, and what they wish you'd think about more.
MTV News: What is the most common misconception you come across with patients?
Nicole Calasich: That they’re the only one dealing with "Issue X." Everyone has something up with their c--ter. (I don’t get to say "c--ter" in session, however.) Nearly all sexually active men and women will acquire some form of HPV at some point in their lives. If you are reading this right now, you probably have HPV. Your mom has probably got some. And your recently divorced, on-the-prowl aunt definitely does. Sometimes I like packaging the commonality of HPV in memorable "Lion King" quotes: “We are all connected in the great circle of HPV.”*
Editor's note: According to the CDC, "About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives."
The nice thing is the vast majority of HPV strains are asymptomatic, and there are just four types that externally present themselves. So "Hakuna Matata" on your recent and/or future HPV diagnosis.
MTV: What do people worry about unnecessarily?
Calasich: A lot of clients self-shame about their methods for STI prevention or pregnancy prevention when asked straightforward questions about it: “Oh, I only use condoms half the time, I know I’m bad,” or “I forgot my pill for a couple days, I’m stupid,” like they are in trouble with teacher. The number-one least effective form of birth control and STI prevention is shame. Clinic workers know that. Maybe you don’t use a condom sometimes, but maybe you also are with one partner whose history you know. Knowing your partner’s history is a valuable form of STI prevention.
MTV: What should someone do if they feel like their clinic is being judge-y with them?
Calasich: Get ‘em on the most sacred of burnbooks: Yelp.
MTV: Any surprising tips you picked up in training?
MTV: Speaking of condoms, what's up with the female one?
Calasich: Female condoms, allegedly, are actually just rebranded anal sex condoms originally intended for male same-sex markets in the '80s. But the world was not ready for a lot of public butt-talk (but historically people have been doing butt-stuff since at least 510 BC).
If you remove the inner ring, you can use it for safer anal sex on all bodies. Also, you can insert a female condom up to four hours before sex with your partner. In fact, it better adheres to your vaginal walls and becomes less noisy that way. I suggest turning on some mood music anyway, though.
MTV: What do you wish would change about the public's perception of free clinics?
Calasich: Some people have an impression that clients at free clinics come from one particular socioeconomic status, a low one. I’ve seen clients from every walk of life, financial status, color and creed. And I’ve served some real boss women making more money than I even dreamed, but are experiencing a loss of insurance between jobs. A good clinic will offer quality services that are appealing to everyone in temporary or long-term need.
MTV: What should people who are visiting a free clinic keep in mind?
Calasich: If your clinic is super awesome, chances are they are in high demand! Being on time or early is super helpful. Also, free clinics like the one I volunteer at rely heavily on donations. If you don’t have money to give now, keep us in mind when you strike it rich!
MTV: And finally, give us some disturbing visuals of our grandparents.
Calasich: If one of your grandparents lives in a retirement community, they are probably getting a lot of chlamydia. Open conversation about safer sex is relatively new in modern society, but we hope to keep the dialogue going...
It is gross to think about, but having a preventive sex talk with Nana Merriweather (I really am hoping someone has that name) might spare you from an even more awkward Thanksgiving dinner conversation. Also, I just wanted to make you think of your grandparents doing it. I’m a monster.
Head to itsyoursexlife.com for more facts and answers to all your sexual health questions.